Downtown sees potential gains on two fronts | Appalachian Highlands

ByShannon J. Cortes

Mar 8, 2022

The focus was on a growing downtown core, with the rebirth of a downtown corridor, Monday at Kingsport’s board and mayor’s business session.

The Downtown Kingsport Association provided the Board with a presentation on the year 2021, while the Kingsport Metropolitan Transportation Planning Organization announced the completion of a study to update the downtown corridor. is.

“What we heard overwhelmingly was that people wanted to see a more attractive corridor,” said Kevin Tilbury, along with East Center Street Corridor Study Consultant Kimley-Horn. “They wanted more landscaping opportunities, trees. They wanted to focus on improving the appearance.

The board will vote Tuesday night on whether to approve the study, which began in June with Nashville-based Kimley-Horn in the lead.

The study was funded by a state grant with an overall cost of $117,000 and the city paid $12,000.

The corridor examined included East Center Street from East Sullivan Street to Fort Henry Drive. Takeaways from the study were that most residents wanted landscaping, beautification, on-street parking, medians and bulbs, and maintaining bike lanes west of Wilcox Drive.

Tilbury said the proposed improvements could be completed in two phases, with the first phase being able to be completed in three years at a cost of between $1.3 million and $1.5 million. The second phase could come after three years and cost between $1.2 million and $1.4 million, he said.

There is also an additional impact on economic development, Tilbury said.

Once the corridor is redeveloped, there is 250,000 square feet of potential retail and office space in the area and the potential to add up to 350 new jobs.

He also said there may be grants available through state or federal funds to help pay for the cost of rehabilitating the state highway that runs through downtown Kingsport.

“Having this plan in place will put you in a much more competitive position for grants,” he said.

Kingsport Mayor Pat Shull asked if the city needed to get approval from the Tennessee Department of Transportation to make changes to the road because technically it is a state road.

“In theory, that’s the TDOT plan that they’re letting locals help draft,” said Ryan McReynolds, Kingsport’s deputy town manager.

McReynolds said the state understands that locals know best what improvements need to be made locally.

Vice-Mayor Colette George asked if the city would be responsible for maintaining medians or bulbs placed on a newly constructed road.

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McReynolds said the city would be responsible, and when the time comes, the total cost of the project will be allocated to capital costs as well as ongoing operating budget costs.

“There are different ways of looking at it,” he said.

DOWNTOWN KINGSPORT SEES GROWTH

Greg Perdue, chairman of the board of the Downtown Kingsport Association, gave the council Monday during its business session an overview of what downtown has seen in the past year.

Downtown Kingsport has resulted in significant sales for several businesses, Perdue said.

He said the association couldn’t get numbers for all the companies, but, anecdotally, they said Boomtown & Co, Kingsport saw a 225% increase during December’s Shop & Hop, their most big day of sales since its opening.

Hometown Cottage Kingsport saw a 48% increase in Saturday small business sales and a 48% increase in November Shop & Hop sales, compared to 2020.

Sugar High also reported a 759% increase in sales in December 2021 compared to December 2020.

“Traders, they’ve really felt the economic impact,” Perdue said.

Overall, downtown saw a net gain of 18 new businesses, resulting in a net gain of 44 new jobs in 2021, the association said.

Perdue also announced that a new downtown loan program will be announced in June. He said the Downtown Kingsport will provide low-cost financing to existing and new downtown small business owners, landlords or investors.

He said Johnson City has a similar program. Both new and existing businesses will be eligible for the loan.

“This is a pretty significant improvement for our downtown businesses,” Perdue said.

Perdue said there will be more marketing and program details later as the details are ironed out.

“It hasn’t been made public yet because it doesn’t exist yet,” he said. “It’s been talked about in various circles.”

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